Muscle Group of the Week: Hamstrings

by Sep 25, 2023

The biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus are the three posterior thigh muscles known collectively as the hamstrings.  Crossing the knee and hip joints, this strong muscle group provides the lower body with speed, quickness, and power.

 

hamstrings anatomy muscles

Hamstrings Muscles

 

What Do They Do?

The hamstrings are engaged during activities such as walking, running, cycling, hiking, jumping, and any sport that involves sprinting.  More specifically, however, what are the responsibilities of each individual hamstring muscle?

 

Biceps Femoris

  • Hip joint:
    • Thigh extension
    • Thigh external rotation
  • Knee joint:
    • Leg flexion
    • Leg external rotation
    • Pelvis stabilization

 

Semitendinosus

  • Hip joint:
    • Thigh extension
    • Thigh internal rotation
    • Pelvis stabilization
  • Knee joint:
    • Leg flexion
    • Leg internal rotation

 

Semimembranosus

  • Hip joint:
    • Thigh extension
    • Thigh internal rotation
  • Knee joint:
    • Leg flexion
    • Leg internal rotation
    • Pelvis stabilization

        

Making it Strong

The hamstring muscles require strengthening if you want top-notch athletic performance!  The great news is that these stretches below can be easily performed at home without equipment!

woman squatting

Traditional Squats

man sumo squatting

Sumo Squats

woman doing a hip bridge

Basic Bridges

woman doing a single leg bridge outside on the grass

Single Leg Bridge

woman in blue doing a reverse plank

Reverse Plank

The Best Stretches

You want strong hamstrings so you can extend and rotate your thighs to the best of their ability.  Your legs need to flex and rotate adequately as well, and don’t forget that pelvic stabilization!  But overworked hamstrings are tight hamstrings, and tight hamstrings are at risk for injury.

The best time to stretch is when your muscles are warm, and a burst of exercise will make those muscles warm and pliable!  Post strengthening, below are some of the best hamstring stretches!

woman in grey doing a sitting hamstring stretch

Sitting Hamstring Stretch

woman in dark clothes laying on back doing a lying hamstring stretch

Lying Hamstring Stretch

woman outside doing a standing hamstring stretch

Standing Hamstring Stretch

Keeping it Happy

Considering the explosive bursts of power your hamstrings can provide, the muscle group is at high risk for injury.   A tight biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and/or semimembranosus can become strained, sprained, or torn if the knots remain untreated.  Massage therapy applied to the posterior thigh is often sought to remove muscular adhesions from the hamstrings, with the most effective modalities being deep tissue, myofascial release, and sports massage.  Selfcare at home can include the stretches shown above, foam rolling, and hot/cold application.

 
massage therapist working on hamstrings

Massage Therapy

foam rolling the hamstrings muscles

Foam Roller

 

While treating the hamstrings is important, it’s also crucial to address its antagonist muscle group known as the quadriceps.  Located on the top of the thigh, the quadricep muscles are the vastus intermedius, vastus medialis oblique, vastus lateralis, and rectus femoris.  In response to the shortened hyper-contracted hamstrings, the quadriceps overstretch and weaken.  Following the hamstring massage, PNF stretches can be applied to the anterior thigh muscles to restore their strength and improve their range of motion.

 

Now You Know!

Keep the lower body strong, flexible, and stable by showing your hamstrings some love!

Next time, we’ll talk about your gluteal muscles and how to keep them healthy!

Katrina Jenkins

Katrina Jenkins

Author, Licensed Massage Therapist

Katrina Jenkins graduated from Towson University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science and worked as a nurse’s aide briefly before pursuing her true passion. She graduated from the Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado in April 2016 with honors and completed the Touch of Healers Scholarship Program the following summer. She has been a part of the Moyer Total Wellness Team since the summer of 2017.

Resources

Crumbie, Lorenzo. “Semimembranosus Muscle.” Kenhub, 2 Aug. 2023, www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/semimembranosus-muscle.

Eske, Jamie. “Best Stretches for Tight Hamstrings: 8 Methods.” Www.medicalnewstoday.com, 15 Nov. 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323703#tips.

Grujicic, Roberto. “Biceps Femoris Muscle.” Kenhub, 15 May 2023, www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/biceps-femoris-muscle.

Lindberg, Sara. “9 Hamstring Exercises for Stronger Legs.” Verywell Fit, 20 Sept. 2022, www.verywellfit.com/hamstring-exercises-for-stronger-legs-5094156.

Sears, Brett. “What Exactly Are the Quad Muscles?” Verywell Health, 2019, www.verywellhealth.com/what-are-the-quadriceps-muscles-2696379.

Vaskovic, Jana. “Kenhub.” Kenhub, 2019, www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/semitendinosus-muscle.

 

Photo Credit

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